MARIETTA, OHIO —This week, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) made the announcement that Washington State Community College (WSCC) has received approval to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The degree will be offered as part of the College’s new Registered Nurse (RN) to BSN completion program. This marks the first time the State of Ohio has granted approval to a community college to offer a BSN, bringing the total to just 14 states nationwide that allow community colleges to award a BSN.
While the topic of an Ohio community college offering a BSN has been discussed for many years, this week’s announcement marks an unprecedented expansion in access to education for Ohioans. “This is a historic moment for Washington State Community College to support our community and our workforce partners in a new way. Our team of faculty and staff have been working diligently to prepare for this opportunity and we are excited to move ahead,” said WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood.
“This region has been limited in BSN educational opportunities for one of the community’s most in-demand careers. WSCC already has one of the top-rated nursing programs in the state, and today we are focused on developing the next step in our nursing pathway that will support the workforce needs of our local healthcare partners and will help existing nurses advance in their careers,” she added.
The college expressed appreciation to Governor Mike DeWine, ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner, and the Ohio General Assembly, including Senator Frank Hoagland and Representatives Don Jones and Jay Edwards, who supported House Bill 110 which authorized WSCC to offer this degree. Washington State was especially thankful for Senator Jerry Cirino, who led this effort along with the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.
The opportunity for WSCC to offer a BSN has received widespread backing. Members of the community, state and local legislators, nursing professionals, K-12 representatives, healthcare leaders, WSCC alumni, as well as its current nursing students were among the many voices that either submitted a letter of support with the institution’s application, or participated in the public comment forum.
Support from the local hospitals was a critical component of the college’s proposal submitted to the state. Both Memorial Health System (MHS) and WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center (CCMC) provided strong support. “Allowing nurses with roots deep in our rural areas to remain home and continue their education permits hospitals in these areas to operate effectively as well,” said MHS President and CEO Scott Cantley. “Rural markets like southeastern Ohio need strong partners like WSCC to help us prepare that workforce.”
CCMC’s President and CEO Steve Altmiller marked his support of the application with praise for the quality of the college’s nursing program. “WSCC has demonstrated a high level of competency in training nurses. Their leadership has demonstrated a consistent ability to meet a high level of performance in education.”
ODHE’s approval follows extensive advocacy on the part of WSCC. Last May, Wood, along with VP of Organizational Effectiveness Gary Barber, took the initial steps when they testified before the Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee seeking support for a senate bill that provided community colleges the opportunity to address the statewide nursing shortage, by expanding its degree-granting authority.
WSCC has a rigorous nursing program known for producing well-trained, highly skilled nurses. Its national licensure (NCLEX-RN) pass rate has consistently outperformed state and national averages. Based on scores from the past five years, Washington State’s average is 97.75%. This is more than 11% higher than the national average and more than 13% higher than state averages. The exceptional pass rates translate to 100% job placement for graduates of the program.
Currently, Washington State offers five enrollment options for students interested in a nursing career: the Practical Nursing program, the Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program, the Advanced Placement ADN program, the ADN Bridge for LPNs, and the Education Advancement to Registered Nurse (EARN) Pathway.
With approval from ODHE, WSCC will now move forward with next steps, including approval from both the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). “We have an incredible team who has worked hard to advance us to this position,” credited Wood. “As we move into this final phase of BSN preparations, I’m confident Washington State Community College will receive the final approvals from HLC and CCNE.” With the nod of these accrediting agencies, the College hopes to launch the BSN pathway in Fall 2023.
Admission to WSCC’s ADN program is a selective process. Students eligible to enroll in the advanced placement or bridge pathway, as well as those interested in starting in the Spring 2023 ADN cohort can apply between June 1 through September 16. The application, as well as additional details about the institution’s nursing program, are available online at wscc.edu/associate-degree-nursing, or by contacting Amanda Stilgenbauer at 740.885.5718 or firstname.lastname@example.org.